Turns out, low fat ain’t where it’s at. This is not breaking news, people. Michael Pollan has been leading the crusade against skim milk since the publication of In Defense of Food eight years ago. And yet, we as consumers haven’t quite caught on. Part of our slow learning curve is due to the fact that government issued food reccomendations are late to change. Maybe, just maybe, if there’s one more study, or perhaps a report with some guidelines…
Well, here we go: A new report out from the U.K.’s Public Health Collaboration and the National Obesity Forum is calling for people to quit worrying about saturated fat and focus on the “consumption of food in its natural form.” The only problem is that it’s also being labeled “irresponsible” by public health officials.
First, the report. It addresses, in detail, three “concerns” about current dietary practices in the U.K.: the idea that saturated fat increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, the recommendation that fat consumption stay below 35 percent of daily calories, and the quality and quantity of carbohydrates being consumed.
Addressing that first truth bomb, the report spends a full page debunking the idea that “a diet high in saturated fat can also lead to raised levels of cholesterol in the blood, and this can put you at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.”
“In retrospect, there was never any strong evidence to recommend reducing total and saturated fat consumption and in the 30 years since the deteriorating health of the U.K. population suggests such advice may have been a dire mistake, however well-intentioned.”
Conclusion #1: The government needs to stop recommending consumers avoid foods high in saturated fat so that they can focus on consuming food in its natural form, regardless of its saturated fat content.
As for the issue of “percentage of fat consumed,” the report also debunks the myth that fat begets fat. “According to the most up to date analysis of the scientific literature,” it reads, “eating a low- carbohydrate diet, which contains much greater than 35% total fat intake, is more effective for weight loss and reducing heart disease risk than eating a diet with less than 35% fat.”
Conclusion #2: We should remove the recommendation that consumers keep their daily fat intake below 35 percent, so that — yes — they can focus on consuming food in its natural form, regardless of its total fat content.
The third recommendation the report makes, on the consumption of high-quality carbohydrates, isn’t as groundbreaking as the first two. It concerns glycemic index, Type II diabetes, complex carbs… you get the picture. As the report states, “Achieving more stable blood glucose and insulin levels is not the only benefit of eating foods with a lower carbohydrate-density. It has also been shown to significantly reduce hunger in comparison to a low-fat diet.”
Conclusion #3: Consumers need to focus on cutting high-density carbohydrates from their diets and adding in low-density carbohydrates in their place. These sorts of low-density carbs are best found in…say it together: Foods in their natural form.
In summary, the report advises U.K. citizens to get back in touch with food in its most natural state, and to complete the cycle of health by making an effort to be active, too.
So who’s condemning it? Public Health England, the agency in charge of national health and well-being. They say it contradicts the existing health advice; namely, the Eatwell Guide, the government-sanctioned dietary plan that Senior Advisor to the National Obesity Forum Aseem Malhotra called in a statement “a metabolic time bomb.” (Really, though. Would you trust anything that advises you to eat a breakfast consisting of orange juice, shredded wheat with skim milk, toast with marmalade, and tea?)
But Dr. Alison Dedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, supports the Eatwell guide, and condemns the new report. “In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible,” she said in a statement. “Unlike this opinion piece, our independent experts review all the available evidence — often thousands of scientific papers — run full-scale consultations and go to great lengths to ensure no bias.”
Shots fired! As long as the correct party in the debate that affects the health of a nation (and also, sort of, the world at large) is still unclear, we’ll take the chance to dish ourselves out a bowl of slow churned ice cream. Because that’s surely what they meant by recommending natural, full-fat food, right?